College Student Has Winning Ways With Separate Musical Instruments


(Wednesday, October 17, 2007 4:32 PM EDT)

For most people, mastering just one musical instrument is quite a feat, but McLean native Brendan Conway isn't like most people. The 20-year-old is not only an award-winning violinist, but an accomplished pianist, as well.

Conway started on piano at age four but stopped when he was six to focus on violin, which he began playing when he was five.

Although he said he doesn't really remember too much about his musical formation as a child, he said it was something he just couldn't stop doing.

“Music is the closest thing humans have to pure emotion,” Conway said in a recent interview. “It was almost a process of elimination. If I weren't playing music, I would die.”

“It's like he was born speaking music,” said his mother, Ann Conway.

Neither of Conway's parents are musicians, but they were very supportive of his musical pursuits (even when he'd get up at 3 a.m. to practice).

At 13, he started studying violin with National Symphony Orchestra associate concertmaster Ricardo Cyncynates. And it actually was Cyncynates who got Conway to pick piano up again, about five years ago.

Busy perfecting his violin skills and keeping up with schoolwork at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science & Technology, Conway originally thought playing piano would be a waste, but now he thinks differently.

“Being able to understand both instruments is helpful,” he said.

Conway usually spends more time on violin, but he has proven his proficiency on both instruments at an international level, winning the Schlern International Violin Competition in 2006 and the Schlern International Piano Competition this past summer.

Most recently, Conway performed Felix Mendelssohn's Piano Concerto No. 1 in G minor with the McLean Symphony Orchestra, and he will be back in May to perform Barber's Violin Concerto.

As a violinist, Conway also has performed at Avery Fisher Hall, Carnegie Hall and the Kennedy Center, among other prestigious venues.

But for Conway, his most memorable musical experience was a recent violin master class at the University of Montreal, where he currently studies under Vladimir Landsman.

During the master class, one of his musical role models, world-renowned violinist Ivry Gitlis, gave a talk that greatly inspired Conway.

“He talked about the musician's role in life,” he said. “He reaffirmed that you shouldn't worry about making a life for yourself, but to remember to be completely honest with yourself and your instrument.”

Conway said he realizes that competition can be fierce in the classical music world, but becoming a professional musician is definitely a plan for the future.

Currently in his second year at the University of Montreal, he said he believes that with hard work and some luck, he thinks he will be able to reach his goal.

“I'm aiming to become a soloist, to collaborate with as many wonderful artists as possible and to play for audiences,” he said. “That's what music is all about - communicating with other people.”

Brendan Conway.

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